Adar Poonawalla, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Pune-based Serum Institute of India, has said his company may sell Oxford-AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine for around Rs 500-600 for the general public. The Serum Institute has tied up with British-Swedish pharmaceutical firm AstraZeneca to manufacture the University of Oxford's COVID-19 vaccine in India and other countries. Poonawalla, during an interview at the Hindustan Times Leadership Summit, said the government will get the vaccine at a lower price, probably around $3-4 (Rs 220).
"So they'll get access to the price, which is similar to what Covax has got, which is $3, and the general public probably has to pay around Rs 500-600," the SII CEO added. COVAX is one of three pillars of the Access to COVID-19 Tools (ACT) Accelerator, which was launched in April by the World Health Organisation (WHO), the European Commission and France in response to this pandemic.
Poonawalla said the UK government will share the data on the efficacy of the vaccine in the next two to three weeks. If it says the vaccine is safe, SII will apply for the emergency use authorisation at the Drug Controller General of India (DCGI) for the vaccine in December.
"We're basing the assumption on emergency licensure based on the positive UK results. So these are the caveats. If we get a good UK result by the end of November or early December, we can apply for an emergency licensure use".
Poonawalla said if things go according to the plan, the coronavirus vaccine will be available for vulnerable populations by January or February. And, in March or April, the vaccine will enter the market for the general public.
However, if it gets delayed, Serum's own plans will go behind schedule, Poonawallla said.
SII, which is the world's largest vaccine maker by volume, is trying to expand its capacity for manufacturing the vaccine to around 10 crore doses from around 5-6 crore doses now.
So far, Serum Insititute has signed a bilateral pact for vaccine supply with Bangladesh. And, the Pune-based institute is not planning to sign a pact with other countries because it may not be able to provide vaccines. According to Poonawalla, India's billion-plus population will be Serum's primary concern.
Serum Institute is currently conducting the phase-3 trial of Oxford-AstraZeneca's COVID-19 vaccine candidate in India. It is anticipated that Covishield will be one of the first to secure regulatory approval, along with vaccine candidates from US-based Pfizer and Moderna Inc, as scientists across the world try to find a vaccine against novel coronavirus.
Serum Institute has also signed pacts with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation and Gavi, the Vaccine Alliance, for the manufacturing and delivery of as many as 20 crore doses of COVID-19 vaccines from Oxford and Novavax.